5a1c9a7a-4626-4cf1-9eec-81bd622758c6Harvey Molotch at Public Books:

Inaugurating a new generation of mechanical street sweepers, Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s chief minister, heralded the coming of a new era: “If we continue to receive the love and support of the public and the workers, then not in five years, we will make Delhi a world-class city in just four years.”1 By June 2020, more features would swathe Delhi in trappings fit for the city’s “world-class” designation, like highways of “good quality with a lot of greenery.”2 Also underway in Kejriwal’s conjuring: a “world-class” high-tech skills center to upgrade the technical labor force, multiple sports stadiums, and shiny new hotels. Ghertner elaborates on other features of “world-class,” some already in place: “the excitement of stepping into an air-conditioned, stainless steel carriage on the Delhi Metro, or the pride of living near a shopping mall with more marble than the Taj Mahal.”

Aesthetics plays an intrinsic role in the functioning of modern regimes even, or perhaps especially, under conditions of mass poverty. Making things beautiful, or at least decent or nice, facilitates both urban development and mass acquiescence. The positive image of certain elements renders other types of physical matter and some types of human beings out of place. Under the regime of “world-class,” they become in effect weeds that make the city ugly. Such a regime justifies spending resources to upgrade the city while uprooting whatever threatens to mar the landscape.

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